Nicaragua is pressing ahead with plans for a new US$30 billion Panama-style canal linking the Atlantic to the Pacific, with China, Japan and South Korea reportedly expressing interest in the project.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega submitted a draft bill on Tuesday that details six possible routes for the proposed waterway, one of which would pass through the San Juan River that forms part of the border with Costa Rica.
“We’ve had talks with Japan, China, Russia, Venezuela, Brazil and South Korea, and everyone is interested” in contributing to the megaproject, project director Eden Pastora told local TV.
He added that Nicaragua’s conduit would be “larger and deeper” than the Panama Canal, currently the only man-made shortcut between the two oceans.
Feasibility studies are expected to cost US$350 million, while actual construction could hit US$30 billion.
Pastora said the project would be carried out by a joint venture, in which the government would own 51 percent of shares and tenders would be issued for the remainder.
The idea of building a canal across Nicaragua dates back centuries, but was overtaken by the construction of the 82km Panama Canal.
In recent years, Nicaraguan governments have revived the concept as a way to promote development of the country, the second poorest in the Americas after Haiti.
The idea has led to some controversy.
Costa Rica on Wednesday demanded an explanation over the plans, with the Foreign Ministry saying that Nicaragua was free to develop infrastructure projects on its own territory, but must adhere to relevant border treaties.
Ortega countered that Nicaragua had the right to build in the disputed waterway, saying: “No one can forbid the option of constructing the canal in the San Juan River and Lake Nicaragua.”